Prof: Take real action on climate change

2013-04-03 14:08
Greenpeace activists perform above an underwater art museum in Cancún to draw attention to the risk for millions of people living in coastal areas. (Jason Taylor, Greenpeace, AP)

Greenpeace activists perform above an underwater art museum in Cancún to draw attention to the risk for millions of people living in coastal areas. (Jason Taylor, Greenpeace, AP)

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Cape Town - The scientific of climate change is long-standing and supported by the majority of experts, a researcher has said.

"We've known for over 20 years that the climate is changing," Professor Inez Fung from the University of California, Berkeley told News24.

She was in SA for a lecture on the underlying mathematics of climate change hosted by the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (Aims).

Sceptics have argued that the climate models that predict a warming world are not accurate, but Fung rejected this, saying that the basic principles are being confirmed by ongoing research.

"Over 30 years, since 1979, we have much richer models. Our models are much better now."

Vested interest

She said that specific groups had a vested interest in undermining the consensus of the evidence of man-made climate change.

"The political reality is such that we have groups that have a vested interest in the near term," said Fung.

This echoes the sentiment from Naomi Oreskes, professor of History and Science Studies at the University of California San Diego.

Oreskes, who co-authored Merchants of Doubt with Erik Conway, said that established science is usually conservative in its view, despite the accusation of exaggeration.

"We've heard a lot of noise lately about exaggeration of scientific claims - alarmism; hysteria - but actually, I believe that history shows that scientists have actually been conservative in their estimates and that global warming has begun to unfold faster than scientists thought," said Oreskes.

Fung said that efforts should be focused on renewable energy solutions that may ultimately prove cheaper in the long term and help to protect the environment.

"As fossil fuels are over 100 million years old, it's an inheritance of our sun. Let's use the current sun to provide energy. The most important thing is the longer term future."

Natural processes

Climate change as a result of an increase in carbon dioxide (CO2) has been observed for decades. Charles David Keeling showed there was a rise in CO2 in 1958.

Despite accounting for absorption of carbon by natural processes, modern consensus says that the production of CO2 is more than the Earth can naturally absorb, increasing the amount in the atmosphere.

Fung said that firm action would not result from political leaders, but private citizens had to demand that policy makers make climate change a serious issue.

"Action has to come from citizens who vote, as well as private groups and industries who change."


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